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Not this time, Mikey!
If I told you there were four teams in the NFL ranked in the top ten in both total offense and total defense, would you guess the Oakland Raiders are one of them?
Probably not; but there they are, ranked tenth overall in team offense, and tied for second overall in team defense.
The defensive ranking is kind of skewed, as it has been in past years, due to the fact that teams haven't thrown on us much this season. But still, there is no doubt that by the numbers, this team is vastly improved over last season.
That improvement is most evident on offense, with current numbers being light-years ahead of what this team has regularly produced since 2002. We've improved; really we have.
Yet here we sit, at 1-2, with only a win over the Rams to claim to our name. How is it that a team producing at a top ten level on offense, and holding it down on defense as well, loses to the Arizona Cardinals? Beats the Rams by only two points? How? I'll tell you how.
The Raiders are a great team this year; between the 20's. Look no further than the red zone at either end to explain why the team's overall rankings don't mesh with the record or the scoreboard.
The Raiders are averaging over 345 yards a game, ranked 10th in the league. Yet they are only averaging 17.3 points per game, good for 22nd overall. What is worse is that the Raiders have only scored four total touchdowns all season, which is a putrid 29th overall. This is a huge schism that is a direct result of failing in the red zone.
The Raiders have been in the red zone 12 times this season (interestingly enough, four times in each game thus far). They have scored points on nine of the 12 possessions; but only three touchdowns.
That's a 25% success rate for those of you keeping score at home. That's not going to get it done.
This means the Raiders settle for field goals three times as often as they score points in the red zone, which for a team that struggles to score is unacceptable. With Seabass kicking the way he is, it's nerve-wracking as well.
Two of the three touchdowns have come on McFadden runs to the outside (one was a pass, but it was still bounced outside). Zach Miller was supposed to be a point of emphasis in the red zone this season, yet has barely been targeted. This team is not using it's biggest strengths in close, which are to get McFadden in space and to look for Zach Miller. Simple yes, but not being executed.
Conversely, one thing the Raiders have actually been good at in recent years is stopping teams in the red zone. But this season, the Raiders are giving up over 80% completion to quarterbacks in the red zone, and have allowed touchdowns on 80% of their opponents red zone possessions.
Opponents have rushed for a full two more yards per carry in the red zone than the Raiders have, as well as thrown for nearly four more yards per attempt, with a much higher success rate.
Raiders opponents are being matched or even outplayed between the 20's, but in the red zone, the opponents are taking it to the Raiders, showing more efficiency as well as aggressiveness.
One look at this discrepancy tells you more than a Janikowski missed field goal does about the Raiders struggles this season.